Travelling with children is what my nightmares are made of. The packing, the prep, the tantrums, the tiredness… it’s an endless drama that often feels like it isn’t even worth the hassle. But when faced with a much more joyous task of holidaying in the Maldives without the kids, I thought it would be plain sailing. Pack for myself, head to the airport and see you in a week! But how wrong was I? The prep, the guilt and overall anxiety left me feeling like I was not ready for this in the slightest. So if you’re lucky enough to have found some decent childcare, here are some thoughts to help you travel on your own…

It’s all in the planning

It’s amazing how much of my children’s routines are in my head. Name a day of the week and I bet in under 10 seconds I can list everything they will need to take with them in their school and nursery bags. But when faced with the arduous task of writing it all down, it become quite overwhelming. An 8 night holiday turned into an 8 page itinerary for the children who were being left behind. The fear I would forget something and the thought of my son not going to school wearing red for Red Nose Day was playing on my mind far too much and it made me just realise how much of life is actually just sat in my head. So to write everything down made me realise just how consuming being a parent is (as if I didn’t already know) and the enormity of the task at hand was, in fact, under control with just a schedule and a few lists.

Mum guilt never leaves

No matter how much you tell yourself it will be fine, the guilt of leaving your children behind never leaves. I don’t think my 2 year old ever questioned our absence, but our 7 year old really loves going on holiday so felt like he was really missing out. We reminded the children that they could FaceTime us whenever they wanted, and we asked for as many photos as possible in return, defined our expectations before we left, and made us feel that little bit more at ease about going.

Enjoy the impossible

I really enjoying reading, but with two kids, running a business and everything else in between, reading often comes way down my list. So to enjoy the impossible I managed to read four (yes, four) books on holiday. I never thought I would even finish one but with I think the 11 hour flights had something to do with kick starting my enthusiasm and encouraging me to simply pick up a book and read. Being able to embrace the things that you would never usually be able to enjoy was a massive win for me.

Long haul flight? Yes please!

Who thought that 11 hours on a plane could be so amazing? Anyone who has previously travelled abroad with young children knows how hard plane journeys can be. So being able to enjoy all of this uninterrupted time is actually more enjoyable than I realised. With no wi-fi (does anyone actually pay for aeroplane wi-fi after seeing how expensive it is?) I divided my time between watching re-runs of The Office (US version, of course), reading, eating, drinking, more eating and sleeping. What’s not to love?

Remember who you are

As parents we often forget who we are. We are people, we are individuals and we are a couple. But the ability to travel and discover yourself once again, remember who you are and also remember a little part of who you once were too, is something that no one should take for granted. The ability to exist as me for just a week and to really remember who I am as a person, is one of the greatest gifts I got.

I missed the children more than I could even describe, and the guilt I felt for leaving them was palpable, but what I gained was so much more. Not sure my mum and mother in law (who moved in for the week and had to live our lives and be parents to our children) felt the same sense of enlightenment, but it was a journey I will never forget and one I am truly thankful for.